Saturday, February 26, 2011

Purity in Africa

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4:19 AM
While in Kruger, we've been attending Evangelical Church with Pastor Stimbiso. For the entire month of February, he's focusing his sermons on love and relationships. Which just happens to tie in perfectly with our purity teachings we've been putting together this outreach! Every Sunday night, the church has a youth/young adult service which we are part of. This Sunday, we are teaching on purity and incorporating some purity-themed skits. We're covering everything from boundaries to setting limits to why God requires abstinence until marriage to how to start over if someone's already gone too far. Our team has really embraced this message, and does a great job teaching it.

But adding the skits is something new for this specific teaching. In my job before YWAM life, every summer I would teach a team of high school students a 3 day skit-based curriculum to teach abstinence and healthy life choices to younger students. It's a ton of fun, and was the highlight of my job every year. Well, now I got to teach some of these same skits to my South Africa team! It was so fun watching them learn these skits that are so familiar to me, and add their own personality and character to them and make them their own. It made me miss my students back in Tampa, and I thought of all the great memories we shared over the past 3 summers. But most of all it was exciting to see this message of God's standard purity to be shared on a whole different continent and be embraced. I'm so blessed to be on this outreach and be sharing a message so near and dear to my heart.

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Word of God Speak

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4:17 AM
Today I did something I have never ever done before. I gave my Bible away to a stranger. Not just any Bible either, like my favorite Bible. I've had it for 4 years, and its traveled with me to Georgia, New Zealand, Florida, Cambodia, South Africa, and Botswana. I've marked it up with my favorite passages and times when God spoke to me through it. And I just gave it away.

Well, I didn't just give it away. It was something God told me to do. Last Sunday I was sitting in church, and to be honest, daydreaming a bit, and I was asking God to prepare me for ministry this week. And I heard Him say to give my Bible away to someone that needs it. My first thought was no way, this is my Bible. I love this Bible...the size, the color, everything about it I love. But God didn't let it go, so I began to emotionally prepare to separate from my Bible. I know, it sounds crazy that I even was feeling emotional separation, but I was. On Monday morning we had a time of intercession, and I heard God speak about my Bible again, and I knew it would be this week. We went out to this shopping plaza to do some prayer and evangelism, and with everyone we talked to I was wondering if they would be the one. I wanted God to be so clear with who would get my Bible. It didn't happen on Monday. Tuesday morning we did the same thing. I wasn't feeling too great, and wasn't too excited about the morning and really let my other group members lead the way. We weren't finding anyone that was open to prayer, and so I just prayed that God would give us someone just sitting there. And then we met Jacob. He was just sitting there. He makes pieces of string artwork to sell to locals and tourists, and he was just making his art when we approached him. We found out he was from Zimbabwe, and had only been in South Africa 6 months. He was really kind. I asked him if I could pray for him, and he said sure. And so I asked him if there was anything he'd like prayer for. And he said he wanted a Bible. My mouth probably fell open because none of us had our Bibles out and I knew God was making it extremely clear to me. So I asked him if he could read English, and he said yes. So I asked him if he wanted mine. And he said yes. Even though it was pink! We spent awhile talking to him about the Bible and Jesus and His Word. We left feeling confident he knew Jesus and now would be able to read His Word every day.

When I came on outreach, I knew I'd be leaving stuff behind but I never thought it'd be my Bible. But I really couldn't have been happier to let it go that day. I'm really learning how beautiful it feels to obey God no matter what He asks.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Letters, Love and Prayers Vol. 9

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4:22 AM
Dear Family and Friends,

Hello from Kruger, South Africa! We are in the final leg of our outreach, in the third location of our travels. It's been exhilarating and exhausting. I hope you've been able to keep up with the many stories on my blog about our ministry and experiences in Rustenburg, South Africa as well. One amazing highlight from my time there was having the privilege of praying with someone to receive Christ. I haven't been able to post nearly as many pictures as I would like because of the quality of internet here, but once I get back in the States, I have a TON to post!

God has really been speaking to me through this journey of DTS, and I'd love to share with you about my plans afterward. About two years ago, God had burdened me with the injustice of human trafficking around the world, specifically touching my heart for southeast Asia. So, I began making plans with what to do with my life regarding those 2 things. That is what led me to Cambodia in 2009. I fell in love with the people, the country and the ministry. In my heart, I knew I'd be back. Which is what led me to YWAM Orlando's DTS. It's been a roller coaster of a ride, and looking back, I see how God divinely directed my steps to this base in this season. It was during the 3rd week of our lecture phase, we had a speaker talking about Lordship and giving God complete control of our lives. It was something I thought I had done, I mean I was planning on moving to Cambodia, right? It was during that week that I heard that “I” had made the plans, and had merely just included God. But He wanted more from me. He wanted me to give Him my plans, my goals, and my dreams, so He could give me His plans, His goals, and His dreams for my life. I was completely wrecked. What did this mean for my future? I let it all go, and realized how much bigger God's plans were for me. YWAM Orlando is a base with an intentional focus on compassion and justice. My DTS is one of those focuses regarding HIV/AIDS. Other compassion and justice focuses include clean water issues, women's rights in Muslim regions, and...human trafficking. Their goal for 2011 is to begin regular human trafficking focused DTS', focusing on both local and international awareness and outreach, with an international outreach in southeast Asia. Over the next few weeks of this realization, I began to strongly hear God's voice regarding my place on YWAM Orlando's staff. I would be part of this training school's staff, discipling and training students from all over the world in their relationship with Christ and igniting a passion for the tragedy of modern-day slavery. I can continue to use my skills in advertising and design to motivate youth and young adults to respond to God's call to “go into all the world” preaching the good news. And I will be able to continue to use the abstinence education information I've learned over the years to educate further HIV/AIDS focused outreaches. It's a place where I clearly fit, and I can't deny God's leading into this next season.

So what exactly is next for me? Well, to join staff at YWAM Orlando, a secondary school called the School of Ministry Development [SOMD] is required. It's a school focused on discovering passions, talents, and vision casting. We'll talk about how to fundraise for a career in missions and how God can use our different personalities in ministry. Similar to DTS, it will be a 12 week lecture phase, and a 8 week outreach. I will be starting this school on March 29, 2011, just 3 weeks after completing my DTS. It's a quick turnaround, but why delay what I know God is calling me into. The funds needed for this school are $4,800 and possible airfare depending on outreach location. The completion of this school will allow me to be staff hopefully by Fall 2011.

Thank you so much for all your support and prayers over the past few months. I wouldn't be here without you. A few prayer needs currently are just for our team to finish strong and press into what God has for us in Kruger. Also, for the funds to come in for my upcoming SOMD next month. Finally, for me to continue to listen for God's voice regarding these last weeks of ministry. Thank you again for all your prayers. In just a few short weeks, I'll be back in the States and would love to catch up and share with you in person what God has been doing!

God Bless,

Joy

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A Home at Kruger

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4:15 AM
Monday the 14th we packed up our lives at Rustenburg and headed to our third and final outreach location, Kruger. The drive was about 5 hours and completely beautiful. Kruger is tucked away in the lush mountainside, and looks more like a tropical climate than the desert plains of Africa. Kruger is also home to Kruger National Park, which is the largest national park in the world. The YWAM Kruger base is very beautiful, homey, and has a real family feel. The staff is mostly American, [a few Canadians and South Africans] and are all super sweet. It's been awesome getting to know them. The main focus of this base is a project called Ten Thousand Homes. They raise funds and build homes for families in the surrounding communities. And they are intentional about providing more than a house, but a home. A place where they can feel safe and secure, where needs are met, and where they can feel community. It's an incredible outreach, and hopefully we can be part of helping build some of the homes that are already in progress.


Mostly our ministry is going to be feedings, similar to what we did in Rustenburg. They are just MUCH bigger here. But the kids bring a lot of energy and we just get pumped up because of their enthusiasm.

One unique opportunity we had for ministry here was with a project called Knit-A-Square. Church groups and community organizations from across the world, mainly America, knit squares and send them to organizations all over Africa to be assembled into children's quilts. I've heard about these projects in the states, but this week I've actually been able to assemble some quilts here! There's about 12 quilts that need to be assembled, and then we'll be able to hand them out to some children at our feedings.



We're nearing the end of our outreach, and our whole team is still being intentional about pushing through till the end, and getting the most that God has for us here. We're all anxious to go home and be with family again, but we don't want to miss any ministry opportunity or any God moment. He's been so faithful to use us again and again, we know that He has specific things for us here in Kruger.




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Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Place of Peace

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5:53 AM
This week my team visited patients at the Tapalogo Hospice/In-Patient Care Center. The hospice is specifically for patients with HIV/AIDS, although several had tuberculosis [TB] as well. I was a little intimidated on Monday, because I really didn’t know what to expect. We heard stories from the other half of our team who was there last week, and it just futhered my anxiety. We were going to be assigned a patient that was “ours” for the week. Ours to sit with, talking with, pray with, entertain and just care for. I had never done anything like this before. So when we got there Monday morning, and people started claiming patients, I just waited. I had prayed that God would match me up with the right patient. So I walk into a room, and there are 5 women in beds, all ages and all pretty sick. I couldn’t decide. Then 2 of my teammates joined me, Meghan and Morgan, and we decided to just adopt the whole room. Language was definitely the biggest obstacle of the week. Two women only spoke Xhosa, one only spoke Setswana, and two others spoke some English. We were overwhelmed, but we pushed through. We were overwhelmed, but we pushed through. We learned their names and prayed over them while they slept. We read Psalms and showed them pictures of America and our families. We brought makeup, nail polish, and lotion and we pampered them like royalty. As the week went on, familiarity and comfort set in and relationships began to form. We even had a dance party in our ward – much to the women’s amusement. Every day, we’d talk about God and Jesus and read from His word. At times it was frustrating, not knowing if they heard or understood, but we just had to trust the Holy Spirit to speak for us, and communicate where we could not.


Wednesday, we got 2 new patients, one that was very sick and not responsive at all. We took turns by her bed, holding her hand, praying, reading and singing. That night she passed away. We were thankful that she was no longer in pain. Friday, we planned a church service for the patients. We sang songs that we knew and they knew [crowd favorite – This Little Light of Mine!] I shared the salvation message, and Linnea shared about having hope for the future. We laughed and danced and a great time. I was actually pretty nervous about sharing the salvation message as a sermon, because that was new for me. But God had really put it on my heart that I needed to share it with them. We had nothing to lose and they had everything to gain. I was really believing God for salvations that morning, and was a little bummed that we didn’t get to pray with any of them.

After lunch, I went to visit one of our “room patients”, Donaro, that had been relocated. She couldn’t make it to church because she was too weak to get out of bed. Donaro is 25 years old, beautiful and bright, and infected with AIDS and TB. We were excited for her to join our room because she spoke great English. We had spent a lot of time talking to her, and discovered while she knew about God, she didn’t seem to be a Christian. I knew when I visited her after lunch on Friday that I was supposed to share my “sermon” with her. I wasked her and she let me share, and she nodded along with me. And when I asked if she wanted to be saved and become a follower of Jesus, she said YES! So we prayed together and Donaro gave her life to Jesus. I told her since we were now we’re both followers of Jesus, we were sisters – even when I’m back in America. She likes that part. I left her with a ring of mine that I got in Botswana so she will remember me, as she is forever imprinted on my heart.


It was a week that began with great struggle, but ended with great triumph. I am just so blown away with how God continues to use me. It’s such an incredible thing.

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South African Soccer

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5:52 AM
I had an amazing opportunity to do something totally South African this week – go to a football [soccer] game! I know what you are thinking…I’m NOT the biggest professional sports fan, but hey, its Africa! It was a cultural experience thing, and I’m SO glad I went!

We’ve had the same taxi [tabago] all week, Aaron, and earlier in the week he mentioned that there was a game coming up that we should go to. It was South Africa vs Kenya. They were playing at one of the World Cup stadiums, just a few kilometers from where we were staying. He wouldn’t let it go, and even offered to pick up the tickets for us. So we decided to make it happen. The tickets were only 100 rand [$14] and we had great seats. Right behind the goal at field level. I’ve been to a few sporting events, but never one as lively as this. The fans were on their feet all night, dancing and cheering. It was so entertaining. One thing I remember from watching the World Cup was the vevuzela, a trumpet like horn that fans blow constantly throughout the game. Some of our team bought them, and we blew them right alongside the South Africans.

The game flew by with all the cheering and chanting we were doing, and before we knew it, South Africa had won, 2-0! It was such a fun game and awesome South African experience!

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Hard Day's Work

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5:21 AM
Much of this week has been physical labor for my team. And during an African summer, that really didn’t sound appealing to any of us! But through the different work opportunities, we’ve seen so much tangible work done for the kingdom of God. Tuesday, we built and assembled a library for kids in Freedom Park, a shanty town. Wednesday, we went to Agnes’ property (where we do daily feedings), and helped clear the land for expansion. Friday, we did yard work and cleaning for a Bible college to help them prepare for an upcoming conference and new term of students. None of it has been real easy, but we’ve kept positive attitudes and found real joy in the work. God gave us cloudy weather for a few days, which made the outdoor work very bearable. It was only few hours for a few days, but so much was accomplished. When working Agnes’ land, we worked alongside other community workers as well. They laughed at some of the ways we did things and tried to help us out. We were also able to share with them who we are and why we are here. Ministry in the midst of ministry. We came home everyday sore and sunburned, but with smiles on our faces. It’s incredible how just remembering who we are working for can influence an entire day’s outlook.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man,” Colossians 3:23

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Feed My Sheep

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5:20 AM
Every afternoon, my team has been going to a woman named Agnes’ home and helping her feed the children in her community. What began as one woman’s response to Jesus’ command “Feed my sheep.”, is now an established and respected neighborhood feeding program. Everyday after school, anywhere from 30 – 70 kids aged 5 – 12 years old stop by for a warm meal and a safe place to have fun. Agnes is a lively grandma, or go-go as they are called in Africa. She’s full of spunk and her love for the Lord and these kids is evident. Since we’ve been going everyday this we’ve really been able to connect with these kids and even fall in love with them. Their faces light up when they see us, and there are high fives and hugs all around. The boys climb all over our guys, turning them into human jungle gyms. The girls sit around and teach us clapping games, or break out into an impromptu dance party. But whatever we do, it’s a joyful event. Whenever we have a translator, we tell the kids a Bible story and act it out. This week we did Joshua and the battle of Jericho and Daniel in the lion’s den. We taught them about the importance of praying to God and obeying Him – even when its tough. And of course, we sing a lot of silly songs! Children’s ministry has never been my passion, but God has given me a heart for these kids. I get into the stories and will do the silliest of songs to see them smile. I chase them around the yard and spin them in the air. It’s hot and exhausting, and it’s the best part of my day.

“Jesus asked…’Do you love me?...Feed my sheep’.” John 21:17

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Bringing Freedom to Freedom Park

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5:11 AM
Freedom Park. The name implies more optimism than what meets the eye. This squatter camp is home to more than 40,000 residents from all over Southern Africa. Rustenburg actually contains the world's largest platinum deposits, making mining a lucrative business. Thousands and thousands flocked to the area with hopes of employment and wealth. But for many, they found neither, and and thus Freedom Park became home to many. Along with utter poverty, disease and crime run rampant. According to rough numbers, of the 40,000 occupants over 75% test positive for HIV/AIDS. This is where our team began ministry this week. Partnering with Tapalogo, a hospice & home care NGO, we began to bring freedom to the residents of Freedom Park. One huge need they had was for an organized library for the Orphan & Vulnerable Children (OVC) after school program. Thousands of books & workbooks had been donated, but never organized or assembled. We worked hard and had it together in about 4 hours. We spent the rest of the day playing with and loving on some really precious children. Later in the week, we had the opportunity to follow the nurses from the Tapalogo Clinic of Freedom Park out on their home visits. We witnessed some real poverty firsthand. Houses – if you could call them that – were put together out of metal siding and whatever other scrap materials could be collected. One woman had turned her one room tin hut into a 3 bedroom home with just curtains and string. But what was even more apparent than the poverty, was the joy of these people. As we went from house to house to check on their health, we also offered prayer, which everyone eagerly accepted. One Xhosa woman couldn't contain her smile as she talked to us. But she was telling us how she had no food left in her house, no more money and no job to earn more. After we prayed for God's provision in this woman's life, we left some of our own lunches with her. One woman we prayed for had just moved into Freedom Park from Lesotho a few weeks ago, after her husband's death in the mines. She came with hopes of collecting his final paychecks, but so far hasn't received a dime. Her teenage son is also hoping to take his father's place in the mines to continue supporting his mother. The needs were great, but our Savior is greater. We humbly lifted each of His beautiful children up in prayer, knowing our words didn't fall on deaf ears. The proof we saw of that today was Shelley. A few months ago, some of the YWAM Rustenburg staff had prayed for her to find a job to support her fiancĂ© and young son, as all 3 of them were HIV positive. God intervened and Shelley was given a job the Tapalogo clinic. Shelley walked the streets of Freedom Park with us doing her job, stopping by her own home so we could meet her new husband and son and pray for them as well. God's eyes are on Freedom Park, and today we were able to be His hands and feet.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

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